Massachusetts should be feeling the full effects of an $800 million transportation-funding bill passed last July. Instead, the construction activity in the state has been paralyzed.
The reason is the lack of a transportation bond bill, which is currently held up in committee. Acting Highway Administrator Frank DePaola said Massachusetts is going to run out of money by February if a new bond bill is not approved. The department of transportation stopped advertising bids for state and federally funded projects three weeks ago.
Members of the state House and Senate and Gov. Deval Patrick continue to be at odds over transportation-funding issues. After Patrick demanded politicians to show some “courage” and pass a $1.9 billion tax proposal, state lawmakers apportioned off $300 million in funding for local roads under Chapter 90 from Patrick’s bond bill, but the governor released only $150 million. The legislature then passed a smaller tax package, causing Patrick to fund up to $200 million for Chapter 90.
“To complete the story, we need the authorization now to issue bonds,” said DePaola. “I don’t want to say they’re half done, but they’re half done.”
The state’s Transportation Committee has redrafted a $12.1 billion bond bill that could be financed by the state with the addition of the new taxes passed last July. The 3-cent gas-tax increase plus linking the full gas tax to inflation would support $2.1 billion in burrowing. The bill, however, is still awaiting approval.